Facebook Sees 500% Boost in Users Aged 55 and Older

iStrategyLabs finds a burst in Facebook users aged 55 and older from January 2009 until July, while traffic from high school and college users drops roughly 20 percent on the social network. This follows research from comScore that found Twitter use for users 25 to 54 has grown. The Twitter burst was chalked up to more professional use, but how can we explain the boom in users 55+?

Months after research indicated that Twitter's growth burst was fueled by working users in the 25- to 54-year-old age range, Facebook has experienced a "staggering increase," in users-513.7 percent-aged 55 and older in the last six months.

iStrategyLabs, which culled demographics and statistics from Facebook's social ads platform, found that fewer than 1 million users aged 55 and older used Facebook in January 2009. Conversely, more than 5.8 million Facebook users fell in the 55+ age range as of July 4.

At the other end of the spectrum, iStrategyLabs found that Facebook use by high school and college users dropped 16.5 percent and 21.7 percent, respectively.

"There have been rumors that these younger user groups are being alienated by their parents joining the service, and this data seems to prove it," iStrategyLabs CEO Peter Corbett wrote in this statement, which includes a chart on his findings.

Reader Ecogordo wrote after Corbett's post: "My guess is that high school users are worried that their parents are spying on them and that they are focusing in texting on their phones. They have to migrate somewhere. If they are looking for a place to network for their groups, they will find another place. Where?"

Others aren't so sure about the data. Reader Andrea noted:

"I am not sure I completely buy this data analysis. 24% growth in the below 18s and 5% growth in 18-24 makes intuitive sense. I have no trouble believing that there is a slowing in the rate of growth at the 18+ level given that they are all captured while still in HS. I think the dip from Jan to July in users who affiliate at College or HS level could be summer transitions, not true drops in volume. Those who just graduated HS or College no longer fall into the "currently enrolled" and the new ones are not yet captured. If I am wrong, then these numbers represent a real decline of 2.5 million users which does not align with the age demo data."

ReadWriteWeb's Marshall Kirkpatrick noted that undeclared education levels are way up, "implying that many high school and college students may simply no longer be listing their schools at all on the site."

It may just mean that Facebook's user base has grown up in the last five years, leaving the campy confines of high school and college student socializing and joining more direct messaging services such as Twitter or other smaller, more low-key services where the scene isn't so crowded.

Perhaps, like an aging rock band or pop star, the cool factor for Facebook has subsided, rendering it a more utilitarian product for business users and a convenience for retired people who just want to connect with their friends and family online.

This brings one back to the upswing in Baby Boomer use, which comes after comScore found in April that 45-54 year olds are 36 percent more likely than average to visit Twitter, making them the highest indexing age group, followed by 25-34 year olds, who are 30 percent more likely. comScore attributed this trend toward older visitors to the fact that so many business professionals have started using Twitter.

But what constitutes what iStrategyLabs' Corbett termed the "staggering growth" in Facebook users 55 and older? No is sure. Read more on TechMeme about this topic here.

Meanwhile, Facebook got a nice boost from Ning social network creator and Netscape browser pioneer Marc Andreessen, who in the process of announcing his new venture capital firm said Facebook will make $500 million in sales this year. In five years, he expects the leading social network to rake in billions of dollars.